The 14th annual Chelsey LaFernier Memorial Walk started with a crowd, led by a domestic violence awareness banner, walking about two miles to the Niiwin Akeea Center. Their friends and families shared a meal and heard from Heather Syrette and Waabano. Syrette spoke about some of the systemic issues victims face while reporting domestic violence.
“That PPO didn’t mean anything. He violated it, we went to court. Nothing happened, and just another slap on the wrist. But he took it seriously, believe it or not, he stopped messing with me. And he finally left me alone. But it didn’t stop for me, what I didn’t realize was that I didn’t heal the inner parts of me. That attracted people like him. I needed to go back to the ceremony, I needed to go to the longhouse and spend time with the medicine man. And spend time with these men that would make me feel safe.” Heather Syrette, Domestic Violence Advocate/Survivor
The day’s second speaker Waabano spoke to challenges two spirits indigenous people face. She says that her transition was a difficult journey of healing. But the support along the way kept her going as she continued to speak publicly about transphobia and homophobia within native communities, promoting understanding and love for all people.
“So now I’ve been trying to be a voice that I didn’t see growing up. I don’t ever remember seeing trans people growing up, especially not seeing indigenous trans people when growing up. And so I like to be highly visible as an indigenous person, and as a trans person. And to show up for the youth. And I think it’s up to all of us as a community to be loving, nurturing, and accepting. And to start shifting what we ‘allow’. I think of how I was so used to abuse and violence from my community. And how that translated over into my relationships like I was already used to it.” Waabano, Two-spirit and LGBTQIA+ Advocate
The day of memory brought many people together for a common goal. To reduce domestic violence in the Upper Peninsula and educate communities on what advocacy looks and sounds like. The Keweenaw Bay Indian community’s Niimigimiwang transitional home seeks to create safe healthy and respectful communities where indigenous families thrive and cultural revitalization can coexist.